The Brunswick Town Council voted Monday evening to extend its moratorium on most major housing developments, a move intended to buy time for town staff currently reexamining Brunswick’s housing policies.

The unanimous vote, which came days before the council’s initial six-month moratorium was set to expire, will extend the development pause into the new year. The council will hold a public hearing on Jan. 17 before weighing whether to extend the moratorium a full six months.

“When we put the moratorium into place, we knew it was an aggressive timeline,” council Chairperson Jim Mason said before Monday’s vote. “I think what we have seen is that the Housing Committee and town staff working together are making progress.”

Since forming in July, Brunswick’s Housing Committee has discussed several potential solutions to the shortage of affordable housing options, which has reportedly stymied local employers’ efforts to recruit workers to the area.

The group’s first proposal, the creation of an Affordable Housing Support Fund to aid developers that build affordable housing, garnered unanimous approval with the Town Council Monday evening.

The fund will be seeded with $500,000 in state and local recovery funds and tax revenue generated from Cook’s Corner, according to Economic Development Director Sally Costello. The town will pursue an additional $500,000 in the form of a Community Solutions Grant from MaineHousing.


Costello said she hopes the program’s initial funds will support the development of 50-100 affordable units targeted toward residents making below 80% of the area median income. For a Brunswick couple, 80% AMI amounts to just over $56,000 per year, according to MaineHousing.

“It’s not enough, not nearly enough,” Brunswick Housing Authority Executive Director John Hodge said at Monday’s Housing Committee meeting. “But we have to start somewhere.”

Hodge and other members of the committee continued to express reservations about Brunswick’s housing moratorium, which drew controversy before its approval this summer.

The policy, which prevents the review of development projects containing 30 or more housing units unless at least 15% of those units are reserved for households making no more than Brunswick’s area median income, was intended to slow a surge of new market-rate projects some feared would permanently box out more affordable developments.

Yet some residents and developers warned the moratorium would exacerbate the town’s problems by artificially limiting the supply of housing.

“I’ve always been a promoter of build, build, build units, because that does create flow in the marketplace,” Hodge said. “We need to get that flow going again in the development world.”

Two of the three housing projects that were in the development pipeline when the Town Council passed its original pause have moved forward after developers amended their proposals to meet the moratorium’s standards, according to Costello. She called those victories evidence that some “inclusionary zoning” rules (which require developers include affordable units in large projects) could help the town increase its stock of affordable housing.

“I’m not sure the moratorium is the right message,” she said. “But having some affordability requirement … I don’t think it’s a bad idea now, given where we are.”

The Housing Committee will use the remainder of the moratorium to consider possible zoning ordinance amendments as well as new policies related to accessory dwelling units and short-term rentals. Proposals would likely take several months to move through the Housing Committee, the Planning Board and the Town Council.

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